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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWindsor chapter.

Love can take many different forms and in my culture, my family expressed their love through food. There has always been a strong relationship between food and culture, and my life is proof of that. I knew that food was a way of exhibiting one’s culture, but I didn’t realize how often my family used food as a way to express their love until recently. In honor of this week’s theme of food and cuisines, I wanted to share some of my favourite memories of how my family showed me love in the form of food from our Chinese-Malaysian culture.

Story 1: Bird’s Nest and My Grandmother

In Chinese culture, bird’s nest is a delicacy that is said to enhance a woman’s beauty, specifically her skin. Bird’s nest soup is made by edible-nest swiftlets; it sounds odd but knock it until you try it! Growing up, my grandmother would always welcome me home from school with a bowl of bird’s nest once every couple of weeks or so. She stopped doing it once I reached high school, and it was only because she was unable to make it for me. Not only is bird’s nest expensive, it is also a laborious task to make the dish because picking stray bird feathers out of the nest is very time consuming. It requires a good eye and a steady hand to do this task, and my grandma unfortunately lost these abilities as she got older. Therefore, I eventually asked her to stop because I didn’t want her to work so hard and strain her eyes. It took a lot of convincing and nagging to get her to stop, but she finally agreed. So, every time I reminisce about my grandmother preparing bird’s nests for me, it still fills me with the love she has for me. Even to this day, she tells me how she wishes she could make the dish for me again, and I only hope I can return the favor for her when I get home.

Story 2: Reunion Dinner During Lunar New Year

My family eats certain food during the reunion dinner that takes place on Lunar New Year. In fact, I’ve described some of the traditions that my family performs during the Lunar New Year in a previous post. The majority of food made during the reunion dinner can take days to prepare, and reflecting on it makes me grateful to have a family who takes so much time out of their days to prepare the dishes. During the preparation time, we’ll catch up on each other’s lives and overall have a good time enjoying each other’s presences. The adults would get together to cook while the kids gather around to play. Even when the food is ready and we’re all sitting down for dinner, the liveliness never goes away. I never really realized how good I had it until I left for Canada and celebrated Chinese New Year without my family. While I have been blessed with being able to celebrate in Canada among friends, it will never be the same. All these memories make me feel like I’m home and I often think about all the Lunar New Years spent with my family when I’m homesick.

Story 3: Red Egg on My Birthday

It is another cultural tradition to give someone a hardboiled egg dyed red on their birthday. It’s meant to represent something, but I honestly don’t remember. All I remember was really looking forward to receiving this egg on my birthday while growing up. I’d wake up and the first thing I’d do is find my grandmother who had already made it while I was asleep. If she was still boiling the egg when I found her, I’d be trailing behind her to watch and hustle her. I did this every year until I moved away for  college and realized that growing up wasn’t so fun. But, my family still makes them for me. They don’t always dye it red, but they never fail to give me a hardboiled egg on my birthday up until I left for Canada. I didn’t realize how much this gesture signified part of their love for me until I left home, but that red egg was all I thought about when I spent my first birthday away from home.

Story 4: Snacks for Canada

Once I received my admission letter to UWindsor, my entire family started surprising me with all the food that I could possibly want. They knew that I wouldn’t be able to have these foods once I left, and even if I could find some, it wouldn’t taste the same. For about a year (because I stayed home during COVID), they would periodically bring in little snacks, treats, and sweets that they knew I liked. To be fair, it wasn’t hard because I loved all foods from home. When I said I liked something, it would mysteriously appear in my house for days on end or if I mentioned I wanted something, the next day it’ll be there. I wouldn’t even have to mention anything, and the food I like would end up in the kitchen. This included when we went out for dinner, my family  always asked what dishes I wanted to eat and essentially babied me until I left.

These are just some of the countless memories I had of food and love from my family. It’s a common stereotype for Asian families to express love in different forms, particularly through food. My family is no exception to this, and have never failed to show me how much they love me through food. They’re not the most verbal about it, but I know through their actions that they love me as much as I love them. I wanted to write this article to honor them and to make them proud, and I hope that one day I can repay all that they’ve given me.

Daphne Chen

UWindsor '23

Daphne is majoring in International Relations and Development Studies with an Economics minor in UWindsor. Her hobbies include painting, reading, writing, and learning about niche topics among other things. She hopes to one day be able to make a small difference in this world, but she doesn’t know when, what, and how.